Archive for the 'Running a Strong & Efficient Business' Category

The REAL Reason Santa is so Jolly – He’s Self-Employed!

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Believers and non-believers alike know that Santa Claus is a happy person. For that matter, so are Mrs. Claus and all the elves (even the ones who want to be dentists). In a world of trouble and strife, why are these folks so jolly?

The simple answer is that Santa is happy because he is self-employed. He’s doing what he loves to do and he has the freedom to create the business and life of his dreams. While running a family business can be complicated, with Mrs. Claus by his side, they deliver a perfect product to a cheering clientele.

Imagine that you owned a business where you had to deliver your product or service only one night a year to an audience eagerly awaiting your arrival. The other 364 days a year are spent in product development and listening to your customers. If that doesn’t make you jolly, what will?

But that’s not all. Each year, Santa’s audience of little children (and some not-so-little ones, like me) write letters to him, telling him exactly what they want. Getting your customers to be that specific — and to get them to put it in writing — certainly reduces the need for market research.

Marketing is easy. Word-of-mouth referrals blossom among the children who love him, and social media and the Internet only makes it easier to spread the word. He doesn’t use Facebook and Twitter to send out endless “buy my products” posts. Instead, he uses them to create relationships and to listen. Santa is GREAT at listening.

And how does Santa get paid? With love, cookies and milk, which are in constant and unending supply. He has no doubts about abundance or whether his clients will pay on time.

It shouldn’t surprise you that Santa has intricate and extensive leadership skills. He doesn’t make toys himself; he gets the elves to do it for him. He instills in them the passion, meaning and purpose of the corporate mission, and they eagerly make toys all year long, happy and singing. There are no recorded instances of elf employment protests. Santa knows how to respect and motivate the craftspeople who work for him. He puts the “elf” in self-employment.

But Santa doesn’t sit on his laurels (because, in fact, it hurts to sit on laurel shrubs). Every year his strategic team comes up with new products and services sure to delight his audience. Notice I said, “team.” Santa can’t do it alone and he recognizes the need to surround himself with those who are smarter than he is in their specialty field. I think it was Santa who first said, “None of us is as smart as all of us.”

To all of you who own your own business, and to those who dream of one day being your own boss, I wish you the brightest of holiday seasons. We can all learn a thing or two from Santa Boss, can’t we?

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Category: Running a Strong & Efficient Business

Why Marketing Fails: The Silo Effect

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When you think of a silo, you think good thoughts: silos on a farm filled to the brim with an autumn’s grain harvest. It sounds like a perfect metaphor for a successful business marketing campaign.

So how can a silo be a bad thing?

The Silo Effect in business refers to groups of people, or groups of projects, working independently from one another. You think this lack of communication and cross-departmental support is only found in large companies.

Nowhere is this phenomenon more apparent than in your own small business marketing efforts.

  • You give a speech on your favorite topic, but you fail to mention your own services and how you help people around that topic.
  • You mingle in a networking meeting but don’t tell them about your upcoming free webinar, or give them a way to register immediately while it’s fresh in their minds.
  • You post on social media but never tell them about the podcast next week where you’ll be a guest.

The Silo Effect in small business marketing is this: the lack of coordination and integration of all your marketing techniques so that they support each other and continue to move the prospective client through your marketing system.

Introducing integrated marketing: bringing it all together.

Instead of simply doing one marketing technique then walking away, consider creating a marketing “network” of techniques where one technique encourages the prospective customer to participate in another marketing technique.

In this way, prospects who aren’t ready to buy can stay within your marketing network and continue to connect with you via all your marketing techniques.

Some examples of integrated marketing techniques:

  • When giving a speech, ask the audience to sign up for your free newsletter or an upcoming free event, whatever you’re currently offering to get them on your mailing list.
  • On the back of your business card, offer a free report, and give them the URL where they can download it.
  • After a networking event, email your new contacts with a link to a blog post on your site which solves a problem they’re having.
  • When doing a radio interview or podcast, remind people that you offer a free initial consultation and tell them how they can sign up for one.
  • On your website, place a big opt-in box that tells visitors about your free monthly webinar.

Never ask your marketing techniques to stand all alone like silos in a field. Connect them together and show that path to your prospective customers so they can walk the path through your marketing techniques to your door.

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Category: Running a Strong & Efficient Business

Strategic Small Business Thinking during the Pandemic

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These are indeed uncertain times. For the most part, we really don’t know what’s going to happen over the next 3 to 18 months.

You may be feeling somewhat anxious or fearful, for you and your family, and for your small business. You may be feeling overwhelmed or distracted.

I’ve lived through 9/11 and the Great Recession, one thing I know for sure: Action alleviates anxiety.

If you think through some what-if scenarios, you can create an action plan that’s flexible enough to flow with whatever happens in the future, and design an action plan which makes sure you’re in a strong position when things get back to normal.

You don’t want to make decisions now that you’ll regret later.

Grab your note-taking tools and I’ll walk you through several ways to think strategically about your small business and consider what-if scenarios in the above video. After that, I’ll give you some concrete ideas on how to make wise plans and take smart actions over the next few months.

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Category: Running a Strong & Efficient Business

Small Business Fear, Success, and Daily Rituals

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What makes one small business owner more successful than another? Trust me, it’s not lack of fear.

We’re all afraid of failing, of our offer being rejected, of making a complete flop of a project, of screwing up a business relationship.

What’s the difference between entrepreneurs who are successful and those who aren’t? Successful entrepreneurs have an even bigger fear: fear of what their life will look like if they don’t pursue their dreams.

They aren’t willing to settle for the way things are now. They don’t sit around hoping things will change. They take action. They go out and try things.

They can’t stand the idea of missing out on the big win, or how they will feel about themselves if they don’t put their total focus, emotion and effort into creating the life they want.

Successful entrepreneurs love to feel progress; they like to move forward towards their goals. They don’t wait until they’ve hit rock bottom and are so desperate that they’re finally motivated enough to do something about their situation. Instead, they create clarity about what they truly want and then they take action each day.

Six things successful small business owners do daily:

  1. Constantly ask, “What’s next for my business?”
  2. Understand your motivations and why you want your goals.
  3. Choose one thing each day to focus on and accomplish, even if you only have 15 minutes a day to work on that one thing. Daily momentum is what creates success, not the huge once-a-year breakthroughs.
  4. Only work on projects and goals that you’re passionate about and will lead you to your ultimate goal.
  5. Know that if you follow a set of steps that you’ve outlined for your business or project, that you will achieve your goals. It goes beyond merely “believing” that these steps will create the outcome you want; you know they will at a gut level.
  6. Trust yourself and be willing to make mistakes and try new things. What you’ve done previously had a certain result. Doing that same thing again will simply get the same results. So trying new things is the only way to break out of the pattern of getting the same results over and over again.

Five morning rituals of small business success

Most successful small business owner I know have a quirky morning routine that goes something like this:

  1. Every morning, map out in your mind what you’re going to do that day. Imagine it before it becomes a reality so you can repeatedly “practice” these steps to success. Imagine what the results will look like and feel like once you’ve achieved your goals.
  2. Imagine what “a little further” feels like and enjoy playing this imagination game with yourself.
  3. Tell yourself emphatically, “THIS is how it’s going to be.” This keeps you fresh and motivated, and changes your limiting beliefs into empowering beliefs. If you see the results in the advance, you condition your mind to know what’s possible.
  4. If you can’t envision what a future success looks like, spend time remembering what past successes look and feel like, reminding yourself that you’ve been successful before and you can do so again.
  5. Don’t just do it once, or even once-in-a-while…envision your success every day. (Twice a day, if you need to!)

You can let disappointment kill your dreams — or you can take disappointment and let it drive you towards success.

People who are fearful of getting hurt, rejected or disappointed never even attempt to reach for their dreams. But successful entrepreneurs know that hurt, rejection and disappointment are part of life. They don’t try to avoid them, they use those feelings to propel them forward.

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Running a Strong & Efficient Business

7 Tips for Managing Information Overload

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Do you ever have that disturbing feeling that trying to squeeze one more piece of new information in your brain will render you senseless?

Information overload causes stress and a loss of productivity. We’re so busy gathering information that we never get into action around implementing all these great ideas. And we can’t seem to put our fingers on the important information that we’ve gathered!

Here’s even more bad news: when you take in too much information, according to a Temple University study, you begin to make more errors, and worse, make more bad decisions. Can your business really afford that lack of clear thinking? (Don’t even get me started about how a hyper-connected lifestyle is bad for your physical and emotional health!)

Here are 10 tips for managing information overload

Regain control of your brain, your time and your tasks with these ideas:

  1. Remember the most important rule: YOU are in charge of your To Do list. YOU are in charge of your calendar and YOU are in charge of how much information you’re willing to receive each day. Trying to take multiple classes at once, or trying to read more than one book at a time, is a recipe for information overload. It doesn’t allow you any time to assimilate and implement. Be selective and base all your decisions on achieving your goals while mirroring your values.
  2. Get things out of your head and on to paper. When you take new information, your brain naturally tries to process it, to make connections, and apply it to your real life. Trying to keep all that “thinking” in your brain makes you feel muddled, anxious, confused. Doing a brain dump — writing down your ideas, even in a quick list format — will help clear things out.
  3. Take the most recent class you’ve attended or the most recent book you’ve read, and create a Top 3 Action Items list. Don’t create a massive To Do list of every great idea from the class or book. Instead, choose the top three actions you can take within a month, and put only those tasks on your To Do list. Once they’re done, you can always go back and choose three more. The point here is two-fold: start implementing what you’ve learned, and do it in such a way that you don’t overload yourself.
  4. Make the decision to make a decision. I know, it sounds silly, right? But if ideas and information are running around in your head and you’re not willing to either act on them or let them go, you sabotage yourself and hold yourself in a perpetual state of overload. Stop doing that to yourself. Instead, tell yourself, “Today I will make a decision,” then do it. You’ll feel better immediately.
  5. When you are drowning in information, stop piling on more. It’s okay to stop watching the evening news. It’s okay to stop reading articles or checking social media sites several times a day. Each time you interact with an information delivery system, guess what? More information is shoved in your face. By taking a vacation – even a short one – from any information delivery system, you get immediate relief from information overload.
  6. Use tools like Evernote or One Note to have a central location for storing information. As important as storing information is, retrieving it easily is even more important. That’s why I moved from paper notebooks to Evernote for storing notes when taking classes, reading books or perusing articles. Evernote allows you to tag each note with keywords and sort them into folders. Notes are completely searchable, so you can have all the information and ideas at your fingertips.
  7. Do you have competing goals? Work on one at a time. For instance, today I wanted to accomplish three things: write this blog post, create my class schedule for the next nine months, and work on a class agenda for a new program I’m designing. All of these things are exciting, and all need to get done soon. All require research and paying attention to incoming information. But only one of the three had a deadline: writing this blog post today. So I put the other things on the back burner and focused solely on writing this blog post. Once it’s done, I’ll choose one of the other two projects to work on next. You have to be willing to let go of some information, even exciting information, so you can focus on your priorities.

I’d love to hear from you: how do you cope with information overload? Are there techniques or software products you use to help you manage absorbing, processing and retrieving information?

15 comments for now



Category: Managing Projects, Tasks & Time, Running a Strong & Efficient Business
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Avoid Pricing and Discounting Mistakes

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In 2008, Pizza Hut saw its sales drop because of the Great Recession. Competitors were lowering their prices and offering discounts — and Pizza Hut figured they had better offer a discount if they wanted to compete with Dominoes Pizza and Papa John’s Pizza for a dwindling market.

So in 2009, Pizza Hut began to offer a large cheese pizza with three toppings for $10 (the normal price was $15). Then they sweetened the deal by offering unlimited toppings for the same $10 price.

And sales rose.

That’s a good thing, right?

Fast forward to 2011. The economy was easing and Pizza Hut (and the other pizza competitors) now wanted to reinstate their normal pizza price of $15.

And customers resisted.

Why? Because of two psychological triggers:

  1. People had gotten used to paying only $10 for a pizza with unlimited toppings. When you increase the price back to the “normal” $15, people see that as a raise in price of 50 percent, conveniently forgetting the pre-2009 pricing.
  2. When you lower your prices, you devalue your product or service. You’re basically telling people, “It’s not worth $15, it’s only worth $10. We’ve been overcharging you all along.”

What do you do when sales are sluggish and you want to offer a discount, but you don’t want to imply that your products and services are worth less by lowering the price?

Enter the Concept of Adaptive Pricing

Here’s the psychology behind the concept: Customers have different needs, and place different values on the various aspects of your products and services — price being just one aspect they consider.

For example:

  • Many customers value access to a live instructor above learning on their own, so if they have questions they can get help immediately from the instructor. Therefore, they’re willing to pay more for a live class than a self-study program.
  • Some customers place value on group brainstorming and sharing of best practices to shorten the learning curve, and are willing to pay to be a member of a mastermind group.
  • Other customers value private one-on-one services and are willing to pay a premium price to get your total attention to find solutions to their problems and think strategically.

By knowing what your customers value — and creating pricing and discounts based on those values — you can increase customer satisfaction and sales at the same time.

But My Customers Want Low Prices!

Be careful of your own psychology: you might be a budget shopper yourself, but not all your customers are. If you constantly offer things for a discount (or for free!), it’s more about your own feelings about money and pricing than the needs of your customers.

For every customer who wants things as cheaply as possible, there are customers who demand extraordinary quality and are willing to pay for it. Just look at the different price/value levels of department stores (from Wal-Mart to Neiman Marcus) and you’ll see that there are huge ranges of quality, service, experience and price needs among customers.

Don’t assume your customers want cheap prices and are willing to take a lower quality service or product in order to get the lowest prices. Price based on the value of what you’re offering, and on your branding strategy. Are you the Wal-Mart of your industry or the Neiman Marcus? (Or somewhere in between?)

So, You Want to Offer a Discount

Great! Offering a discount has a lot of benefits for your business. Pay attention to your strategic purpose behind the discount — to increase sales, to increase demand, to test a pricing strategy, or to get the word out about a new product/service — and price accordingly.

When you offer your discount, test to see if your goals have been met. You may be assuming a discount will produce a certain results, and you could be wrong. Tracking your results is the only way to know for sure. (The numbers don’t lie!)

Three Adaptive Pricing Techniques to Use in Your Business

Versioning

For customers who are concerned about price above all else, offering them your product or service in a different version at a lower price-point will serve them while still keeping your sales up. Here’s an example:

  • You teach a 5-week class where students submit their homework assignments to you for review and analysis, and have access to you during class to ask questions. That class is priced at $599.
  • For the budget-conscious student, you offer similar material in a self-study version $399, (and they don’t have access to you at all if they purchase the self-study version).
  • For customers who want more private access to you to learn the topic and apply it specifically to their own business, they join an ongoing mastermind group that includes both the class and the mastermind group access for several weeks after the class.

Each customer has a different need — and by creating three versions of the service, you meet the needs of each type of customer.

Additions for Free

Another adaptive pricing technique is to offer an “extra” or “bonus” for free, but keep the base price of your product and service the same.

For example, you could offer your mastermind group to your customer at full price, but then offer them a free additional hour of your time. Walt Disney World theme park had a great success with offering their Buy Four Entry Tickets and Get Three Free package.

But don’t offer pseudo free bonuses unrelated to the product or service that customers are buying. Customers are now savvy to the free bonuses that many internet marketers offer (like: “Buy Our Ebook and Get $40,000 Worth of Bonuses Free”), and it just makes people think you’re trying to fool them, lowering trust and harming the relationship.

Unbundle

Everyone is telling you to combine a whole bunch of your offerings together, then give the customer a special price. But what if your customer doesn’t want everything in the bundle?

Consider offering your main product or service at full price, and then offering upgrades at a reduced price.

  • You could offer your live event for $1,200, then offer an hour of private consulting time for an additional (discounted) fee to those who are attending the live event. Or you could offer them an ongoing mastermind group for an additional fee.
  • Or you could offer them recordings of the live event for an additional fee. That way, customers can choose which upgrades are valuable to them and you can clearly see which upgrades are the winners in the eyes of your customer.

Final thoughts…

The key here is to know your customers, and know what they value when it comes to purchasing services and products. If you’re not sure, test out several pricing strategies and see which one pulls in the most revenue.

It’s also important to stop offering discounts when they are no longer needed to boost sales.

Be strategic and think through your pricing ideas before implementing them so they don’t come back to bite you later!

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Category: Running a Strong & Efficient Business

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